Voice Recognition

Licking Heights Local School District News Article

English Language Learner Program Growing for 2023-2024 School Year

Twenty years ago, Licking Heights Local Schools was a rural district with a predominantly English-speaking student population. In 2023, a visitor walking down the hall might hear a group of students speaking in Nepali, see a sign in Spanish, admire student drawings of different world flags or pass the classroom of an English Language Learner (ELL) teacher instructing a room of students learning English.

The district’s ELL program, led this year by Laura Mickelson, has steadily grown along with the student population–and like the student population, it shows no signs of stopping. Out of the approximately 5,200 students enrolled at Licking Heights, nearly 1,000–almost 20%–participate in the ELL program.

Mickelson started with the district 18 years ago as one of only three full-time ELL teachers. Now, she serves as the program’s coach and oversees and supports 17 full-time teachers, kindergarten to 12th grade.

“I don’t know how you can’t like these kids,” Mickelson says of her students. “If you start interacting with them, you realize being an ELL teacher is the best gig.”

In order to receive instruction in the ELL program, a student’s family must complete a home language usage survey. This provides a district with information about if a student was born in the US and if they regularly speak English at home. Some of the top home languages spoken by ELL students at Licking Heights include Nepali, Somali, Spanish, Arabic and Twi.

Based on the responses to the language usage survey, students will take an English language placement exam. Their test results determine if they will participate in ELL instruction. Some students Mickelson and her team work with come into the classroom with very little or no English at all.

The primary goal of ELL instruction is getting students comfortable with speaking, reading and listening to English like a native speaker and supporting students in content classes like science, social studies, language arts and math. Instruction in an ELL classroom varies based on grade levels. For elementary students, the focus is mostly on literacy. For fifth through twelfth grade, ELL students receive instruction during designated periods in an ELL classroom that supports their other teachers.

Of the 17 teachers across Licking Heights, two are at North Elementary, three are at South Elementary, four are at West Elementary, two are at Central Intermediate, two are at the middle school and four are at the high school. The district also has three bilingual assistants: two who speak Nepali, and one who speaks Spanish.

While knowing a second language isn’t a requirement for an ELL teacher, Mickelson says it can be very helpful as teachers understand the process of learning a new language and how that feels for a student. Even people who have traveled extensively in places where they did not know the native language may have what Mickelson considers the most valuable tool for an ELL teacher–empathy.

“You don’t know what it’s like to not understand something unless you’ve been in that position yourself,” she says. “Empathy is so important in this role.”

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Licking Heights Local School District

6539 Summit Road Pataskala, OH 43062
P: 740-927-6926 | F: 740-927-9043

Licking Heights High School (9-12)

4101 Summit Road Pataskala, OH 43062
P: 740-964-9005 | F: 740-927-0508

Licking Heights Middle School (7-8)

4000 Mink Street Pataskala, OH 43062
P: 740-927-9046 | F: 740-927-3197

Central Intermediate (5-6)

6565 Summit Road Pataskala, OH 43062
P: 740-927-3365 | F: 740-927-5845

South Elementary (1-4)

6623 Summit Road Pataskala, OH 43062
P: 740-964-1674 | F: 740-964-1625

West Elementary (1-4)

1490 Climbing Fig Blacklick, OH 43004
P: 614-864-9089 | F: 614-501-4672

North Elementary (K)

6507 Summit Road Pataskala, OH 43062
P: 740-927-3268 | F: 740-927-5736

Central Preschool

6565 Summit Road Pataskala, OH 43062
P: (740) 927-3268

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